Obama and the Nomination

Posted by Katherine | June 4, 2008 – 3:42 pm

Last night Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination and Clinton didn’t concede. It’s not remotely possible to sum up the loud online talk, so here are just a few interesting reactions.

Designer-doodler Chris Piascik in Cambridge, MA, went straight to his moleskine notebook to do one of his daily drawings:

Doodle about Obama securing nomination
[Chris Piascik / Flickr]

Professor Tracey feels that Shirley Chisholm, the very first big-party African-American presidential candidate, would be proud of Obama. But, Tracey cautions, “Barack should heed and remember her campaign slogan — ‘Unbought and Unbossed!’” (Thanks, Sarolta Cump.)

SheCodes writes a blog subtitled Politics for black women who are determined to make a difference. She believes Obama, as a “relative nobody,” managed to run his campaign in a way that “will forever change the foundational principles of campaign strategy in America.” But she does wonder about his ability to fix the country’s racial, economic, and foreign policy problems. Most importantly, though, she thinks Obama’s victory will have an electrifying effect on the black community:

One of the greatest accomplishments of Obama’s nomination is a curbing of a prevailing attitude of defeatism in the Black Community.

I am simply shaking my head in wonder today. I’ve been reading the black message boards, and it’s as if many of our folks are realizing for the first time that we are not living in the days of Jim Crow anymore! And I am talking about YOUNG people who should know better…

Sean McLachlan — Canadian history and travel writer — is also excited by Obama’s win but lingers somewhat longer on possible limitations of his candidacy:

Just how much can Obama really change the power structure in the U.S.? Or change its deep-rooted racism? We’ve heard these promises before, by other candidates who were probably well intentioned too, and little has changed.

I’m also worried that he will become the ultimate in tokenism. People will think, “How can we be a racist country if we have a black candidate?” Quite easily, as a matter of fact. Whites might consider him “one of the good ones” and continue thinking as they’ve always thought.

On the other hand, maybe this is the start of something new. I teach university students, and one thing I’ve noticed is that there a lot more interracial couples than there were when I was in college almost twenty years ago. That’s a good sign.

William Dyer, a conservative lawyer in Houston, predicted that Obama would win the nomination, but didn’t expect him to be as bloodied by fellow Democrats as he has been. Dyer thinks any backlash will stick to Clinton instead of McCain and that Obama’s “primary wounds will remain at enormous risk of re-opening and then copiously hemorrhaging throughout the general election campaign.” He’s cautiously optimistic that McCain stands a chance:

McCain’s still the underdog. He’s far from my ideal candidate. But he ought to monopolize the political center. His chances are better, by far, than I would have predicted a year ago, or than they possibly could have been absent the bruising, extended Democratic primary. Bottom line: A five-month battle wouldn’t have been adequate for America to complete its reality check on Barack Obama. A ten-month battle may be, and come November, that’s what we’ll have had.

Turning to Clinton’s apparent defeat: labor-relations specialist David Rowland in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wonders whether the tenacity of Clinton’s supporters has a very particular feminist origin:

A panelist [on Diane Rehm’s public radio show] was reporting on conversations he had had with female Clinton supporters and he said something along the lines of, “He’s a character they recognize from their own lives lives, the sort of flashy younger guy who steps in and takes over.”

I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t ever really put the experience critique through a feminist lens in the way the comment suggests, and having done so I have to admit that it resonates. The narrative isn’t seamless — to see Obama as a flashy interloper would seem to require granting that the nomination was something that Clinton had a prior claim to — but the archetype being described is real enough, and there is no doubt that many, many women have been pushed aside in the way that the narrative suggests.

Brought up a Catholic midwesterner, Ann calls herself a “committed feminist.” She’s also deputy editor of The American Prospect, where some of her pieces are about women — so this post of hers on a group feminist blog definitely bends the rules as “probutcool.” She makes a notable point, though, looking back on the Democratic primary, about Clinton’s impact on women:

For years we’ve heard anecdotes from researchers that women’s political participation increases when there’s a woman running for office. The Clinton campaign let us observe that phenomenon first-hand. Maybe it’s because I work in media, but I’ve certainly watched this effect unfold in the realm of opinion journalism. Even women who consider themselves Obama supporters have had markedly more bylines in political outlets and on op-ed pages. […]

We’re going to hear a lot, in the wake of the primary, about what Clinton’s defeat means for other women politicians. Or what it means for young girls who might want to grow up to be president someday. But I agree with Dana that women who don’t have presidential aspirations are already seeing a positive effect of Clinton’s candidacy — an effect I hope will continue throughout the general election.

As a fun coda: “Apparel and Culture” PhD student and blogger Monica Sklar from the Twin Cities managed to secure good seats at Obama’s victory rally in St. Paul last night. She recorded — in pictures and words — the diversity of the crowd and some of the DIY Obama fashion. It’s a hard post to excerpt, so just go check it out yourself.


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